Netflix has a way of resurrecting a career once forgotten, or it can simply tell us that a notable person was never forgotten even if we haven’t heard from them in a while. Case in point: Kevin Spacey. The much-maligned actor has been caught on the juggernaut streamer lately. His 2008 film 21 is currently the number seven most-streamed movie on Netflix. Despite the critics panning the movie when it came out (currently a splat of 36% on Rotten Tomatoes), fans appreciate it much more. Audiences gave the movie a 66% rating on the platform.
The film stars Jim Sturgess as Ben (The Other Boleyn Girl, Across the Universe), a real-life mathematic wunderkind who was desperate to earn a $300,000 scholarship at Harvard Medical School that will go to only one of 72 students. The cast also includes Kate Bosworth as Jill and Kevin Spacey, who plays Micky Rosa’s professor. If any of those names or the situation sounds familiar, it should. This is the well-known story of students from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) who used their empirical brains to count cards and take Las Vegas casinos for millions.
This scheme was such an exciting story. The real Ben Mezrich wrote Bringing Down the House: The Inside Story of Six M.I.T. Students Who Took Vegas for Millions, a book that became a New York Times bestseller. And then, it became a Robert Luketic-directed film that was more well-known for the schmaltzy rom-com, like Legally Blonde, Monster-in-Law, or The Ugly Truth. The movie starts to pick up when Kevin Spacey enters the story as a smarmy M.I.T. professor who recruits Ben and his gang of arithmetic big brains to a secret blackjack squad. Spacey’s focus is to cheat Vegas out of a wheelbarrow of cash just by using acuity and willpower.
The movie didn’t deserve the smattering of boos from the critics because it’s a tale that keeps you interested and entertained. Even Laurence Fishburne is good as the casino security director, Cole Williams. The movie was never a success by any means, but apparently, it is good at sustaining attention and intrigue. Or is it? This is, after all, Kevin Spacey we’re talking about here. Since 2017, Spacey hasn’t been active in Hollywood, much less visible until recently filming an indie passion project called Peter Five Eight. He still is one of the most decorated and impressive actors of this generation. Still, he is no longer respected since Netflix booted him off House of Cards and cancel culture locked the pearly gates leading into Hollywood.
Kevin Spacey is now a disgraced memory of what he once was following a slew of sexual assault and misconduct allegations brought against him five years ago. Everything Spacey touched turned to gold, including two Oscars, one Golden Globe, one Tony Award, four S.A.G. Awards, and even a BAFTA. His latest role as the malevolent, breaking-the-fourth-wall walking political filibuster on House of Cards was historic for Netflix becoming the first show that earned nominations and awards. Yet, not even Frank Underwood could unweave Spacey’s tangled web of mischief as he became one of the poster boys for #MeToo.
Following Ronan Farrow’s bombshell story in The New Yorker in October 2017, about 13 women publicizing their allegations against the now-imprisoned producer Harvey Weinstein. Almost three weeks later, Star Trek: Discovery actor Anthony Rapp drew strength from the courage of those women and alleged that when he was 14, a 26-year-old Kevin Spacey forced Rapp down and made “sexual advances.” By November 3, Spacey was kicked off House of Cards following more allegations claiming he groped Heather Unruh’s son. She was a WCVB anchor in Boston which gave her more room to be public about the matter.
For three decades, Kevin Spacey’s star never flickered—always a bright supernova attracting any celebrity to be in films with him. And now that he has been seen in public again for the indie film Peter Five Eight, it may not be long before Hollywood decides to take him off punishment and allow him back in the gold-encrusted sandbox of Tinseltown. He was one of the actors hit the hardest with #MeToo allegations and revelations, and it was assumed the talented but defamed actor would never be on screen again. But, if we have learned anything about Hollywood given the past contentions about Woody Allen, Hugh Grant, Louis C.K., and Roman Polanski, there is a distinct and different set of standards out there for the Beautiful People. And possibly, Netflix is proving that with 21 showing aces.